McLaurin may finally have real help with WR — and he notices it originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
ASHBURN, VA. — Terry McLaurin has had great success in his first three NFL seasons, as evidenced by his back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns and the $71 million three-year extension he signed with the Washington Commanders earlier this month. But as good as number 17 has been for Burgundy and gold, he has received little help from his fellow shiners.
In 2022, that should no longer be the case.
Washington drafted Jahan Dotson, a polished Penn State product with an incredible catch radius, in the first round of April’s NFL Draft. Curtis Samuel, Ohio State McLaurin’s teammate and an esteemed free agent who signed two March ago, is back to health after an injury-riddled campaign in 2021. The rest of the room is filled with versatile lows, showing the most talented wide. receiver corps of McLaurins Commander to fill tenure.
“I think it was definitely an emphasis to have as many weapons as possible on our attack,” McLaurin said after training on Thursday. “And when you have a lot of versatile guys like us, young core guys who are hungry but humble, I think it’s really cool to be a part of a group like that.”
Since taking over as head coach in 2020, Ron Rivera has craved positional versatility on his roster. Between McLaurin, Dotson and Samuel, the Commanders have a trio of players who can each play all three receiver positions. That versatility should allow offensive coordinator Scott Turner to get creative, but also lead to more production from the position than the franchise has had in years.
“[When] you have that versatility over a 17-game season, that’s going to be really important,” said McLaurin. “If you’re pigeonholed, this guy can only play this, this guy can only play that it doesn’t just hurt the player, But it hurts the attack and the team.”
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The commanders have only been working on the training camp for two days so far, but the early results from the spacious reception area are positive.
Looking as steady as ever, McLaurin was on the receiving end of a deep Carson Wentz pass on Wednesday, the highest high of day 1 of the camp. The 26-year-old made an impressive mid-air adjustment to snag the pass, demonstrating his elite ability to land disputed catches.
Samuel, who put in two solid days of practice in a row, flashed on Thursday by putting a sick juke on cornerback Benjamin St-Juste after a short pass from Wentz.
“That gave me flashbacks of college and seeing what he can do with just the ball in his hands, his versatility after the catch,” McLaurin said. “Most guys catch that ball with a five-yard pass and they get maybe two or three extra yards and the move he made on a dime gets you 10 to 12 extra yards with his skill. So it’s cool for other guys.” people around see that, feel that. He looks like he has a good spring in his step.”
Rivera was also quite impressed with Samuel’s move and hopes it’s a sign of what’s going to happen to the now healthy sixth-year veteran.
“That showed in the space with the ball how dynamic he can be and that’s what we need,” Rivera said. “That’s the kind of explosiveness you’re looking for, if we can get guys into space with the ball in their hands and create it, there’s a chance for us to win some football matches and that’s what we need to do. is where we need to be.”
Then there’s Dotson, who was the star of OTAs and minicamp when McLaurin was absent from contract negotiations. Even with McLaurin back, Dotson has continued to get first-team reruns and has put in a handful of plays in the first two days that show exactly what the commanders selected him as 16th overall.
On a day dominated by Washington’s defense, the best action came through Dotson offensively. The rookie, lined up against St-Juste, beat the sophomore cornerback off the line and drove to the left sideline, where Wentz punched him in perfectly for a big win.
When they came out of Penn State, concept analysts were enamored with Dotson’s hands. In fact, this spring, Wentz called him one of the most natural pass catchers he’s ever seen. This particular piece was one of the first times McLaurin got to see it for himself. He was much impressed.
“If you’re a determined man like he is and have been so far, he’s very confident when the ball comes near him,” McLaurin said of Dotson. “I think what he did great with that pass he caught on the field is that a lot of receivers blur a little bit and let the ball come in. And it gives the DB a chance to get his hand in it. But if you get your trusts hands like him he kept the defensive back between him and the ball and caught it on his outside shoulder he used really good late hands which is pretty hard to do i’m still working on that skill a bit too. “
McLaurin’s first impression of Dotson came a few years ago when he watched his alma mater play Penn State. In that game, a Buckeyes win of 38-25, Dotson landed an Odell Beckham Jr.-esque one-handed touchdown catch, a game McLaurin remembers vividly.
“I didn’t know it was him in college at first, but he caught a one-hander against Ohio State. You kind of see his ball skills here,” said McLaurin. “I got to see him again in California and he’s just very natural when he catches the ball.
McLaurin is still getting to know Dotson, as the two have only spent a handful of days together between their July trip to Los Angeles and the first few days of camp. The veteran said Dotson is quiet at times, but that’s to be expected from rookies. McLaurin is impressed by Dotson’s approach to camping, calling it “very businesslike” and professional.
On the other hand, McLaurin hopes to see Dotson show more emotion when he makes a big play like the one he made on Thursday.
“You’re trying to encourage him to smile. You know what I mean? Because it’s hard to play in this league,” McLaurin said. “And if you make explosive plays like he did today, change those games, change those possessions, and it makes the attack even bigger when you see receivers go down, play like that. So I just want to keep encouraging him to be himself , help to further hone his skills, take up the coaching very well, which he is already doing. I think he has a chance to help us a lot.”
It’s hard to believe, considering McLaurin’s only just starting his fourth season, but he’s the oldest statesman in the Commander’s Reception Room. Except for Cam Sims, no wideout has been with the team longer than McLaurin.
Already a team captain and leader of the team, McLaurin is now seen as one of the faces of the franchise, especially after signing his extension. With that responsibility comes the territory, and one of those responsibilities includes being a mentor to the rest of the recipients. It’s something McLaurin has tried to do in the past and he hopes to do more this year with Dotson and the rest of the young wideouts on the team.
“In my rookie year I had the opportunity to learn from a lot of great veterans. I had that a bit in Ohio State too. … I’m proud of that because it’s hard to make it in this league and we all know that we are fighting for the same jobs,” said McLaurin. “We all know we are competitive and want to play. But if I can do anything to share my wisdom, to share what I’ve learned from this game, to try to be infectious with my personality, with my confidence, with my competitiveness, I think that breeds a stronger room. It breeds a healthy room where guys know they can trust you. And you look after their interests, knowing we’re still competing and everything like But if there’s any way I can help these guys, I will.”